Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Viciousness meets Verse

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

From Goodreads.com: “What started out as girls' games became a witch hunt. Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials told from the perspectives of three of the real young women living in Salem in 1692.

Ann Putnam Jr. plays the queen bee. When her father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann grasps her opportunity. She puts in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of the people around her forever.

Mercy Lewis, the beautiful servant in Ann's house, inspires adulation in some and envy in others. With a troubled past, she seizes her only chance at safety.

Margaret Walcott, Ann's cousin, is desperately in love and consumed with fiery jealousy. She is torn between staying loyal to her friends and pursuing the life she dreams of with her betrothed.

With new accusations mounting daily against the men and women of the community, the girls will have to decide: Is it too late to tell the truth?

A Printz Honor winner for Your Own, sylvia, Stephanie Hemphill uses evocative verse to weave a nuanced portrait of one of the most chilling and fascinating times in our nation's history.”

Let me begin by saying that I have never read any novel in blank verse. I didn’t know how I would feel about it, turns out, I love it! The verse made the book go by much faster and it really helped create an atmosphere.

I have read a lot about the Salem Witch trials and the surrounding history. I have been to Salem, walked those roads, and looked at the graves of the accused. A weekend trip was a birthday present from my spouse a few years ago. I figured this book would either give me a new perspective or irritate the heck out of me!

The story is told through the words of 4 of the “seers.” Because it is fictionalized, Ms. Hemphill was able to give them back stories and rearrange a little of the trials in order to make it compelling. The verse adds a level of interest to a much retold story. I loved the depth and, in some cases, the thrilling edge that poetry added. I found myself yelling at the book, at the girls, begging them to stop accusing people. I was brought to tears a couple of times.

The “Gossip Girls” element makes it appealing to teens, even those not interested in history. The only thing a reader might have to get past is the use of appropriate language (“thee” and “thou” etc.).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Theorems, Anagrams, Romance and Road Trips

From johngreenbooks.com: “When it comes to relationships, everyone has a type. Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. He has dated–and been dumped by–19 Katherines. In the wake of The K-19 Debacle, Colin–an anagram-obsessed washed-up child prodigy–heads out on a road trip with his overweight, Judge Judy- loving friend Hassan. With 10,000 dollars in his pocket and a feral hog on his trail, Colin is on a mission to prove a mathematical theorem he hopes will predict the future of any relationship (and conceivably win the girl). An Abundance of Katherines was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also named one of the books of the year by Booklist, Horn Book, and Kirkus.”

I am not sure I could give a better description of this book than the one above from John Green’s site. This book is the second one I have read recently which had footnotes (as part of the humor). It is a realistic portrayal of the friendship between Colin and Hassan. The two of them learn about themselves. Colin searches for a mathematical reason that he has been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine. Hassan, who isn’t really searching for anything, finds himself.

It is a short read (228 pages including the appendix) so those readers intimidated by the size of books will be attracted to it. I would recommend this book to teen boys and girls alike. The friendship and situations will appeal to boys, the underlying romance and the coming to terms with relationships will appeal to girls. Overall, I think this is an excellent read.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Real and Moving - How to Save a Life

About the book (from sarazarr.com):
Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

This book was an interesting read. Chapters alternate between Jill’s and Mandy’s point of view. 

Each girl is facing her own battles. Jill’s father died months before and now her relationships with friends and her boyfriend Dylan have suffered. Before his death her dad and mom had talked about adopting a child. Now, in her own way of dealing with grief, Jill’s mom wants to adopt a baby. Through a website Jill’s mom and Mandy connect.

Mandy has a lot of “rules” for how the adoption has to take place. Chapter by chapter we learn about her past and wonder about her future. We watch as Mandy becomes less a scared and scarred little girl and more a young woman ready to face her life.

Jill is dealing with her grief in a different fashion, by withdrawing from everyone and everything. When she reconnects with someone from her high school, she finally finds someone who can reach into her grief and help her start to heal.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lord of the Flies meets Survivor meets Gilligan’s Island

Oh Libba Bray how I love your mind....

“From bestselling, Printz award-winning author Libba Bray comes the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.

Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.”

I have loved Libba Bray since I did a video book trailer for her book Going Bovine. I have read/listened to most if not all of her books. I love that they are all different! Her trilogy about Gemma Doyle (The Sweet Far Thing, Rebel Angels and A Great and Terrible Beauty) brings romance, mystery and magic together for a lovely fantasy. Going Bovine is a Kerouac-esque coming of age/dying story involving a Garden Gnome and an Hispanic Dwarf.

Beauty Queens brings cynicism and sarcasm to a fabulous level! A plane goes down on a remote island. The only survivors, teens headed to a beauty pageant. It is Lord of the Flies meets Survivor meets Gilligan’s Island. This book starts funny, and gets funnier. In between we learn about tolerance, stereotyping, bullying, and properly applying mascara. The book tackles topics ranging from lesbianism to disabilities and transgender to purity and religion. All with a dose of product placement and a few “characters” stripped from modern politics. There is little doubt that Ladybird Hope is Sarah Palin and Mo Mo is Kim Jong-Il. There is a George W. Bush character and, of course, discussions of boy bands and pirates!

I would highly recommend this book to teen girls. The lessons about getting along with other girls, about tolerance of people who are different and the humor would appeal to many teens.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Apologies!

Due to a family medical emergency and a lack of internet access during it, I have not posted in nearly 2 weeks. I am back home and, thankfully and gratefully, all seems to be well in my family.